The great baseball broadcaster/philosopher Joe Garagiola once described baseball as “drama with an endless run and ever-changing cast.”
That statement couldn’t be truer than in college baseball, where the cast in fact changes every year as student-athletes graduate, are taken in the Major League Draft, or simply finish their eligibility. It takes the right director to deal with the moving parts, to make sure the cast of characters adheres to certain standards, and essentially ensure that the show goes on — because it must.
I used that quote from the late Garagiola this past week as we introduced Jeremy Beard as the head coach of Cal State Bakersfield baseball. Beard was thrust into the interim head coach role last winter, when it was decided that the program needed to go in another direction.
He was taking over a cast that had struggled the year before. Whether it was dealing with the change in head coaches, philosophy or just simply a down year, he had a group of young men who were very successful in 2015, but were coming off a very-tough 2016 campaign; a new director was needed.
Credit to coach Beard. It’s not easy coaching with the ‘interim’ tag. Recruits are unsure if you’ll be around if they decide to commit to your program. Heck, you’re not even sure you’ll be around. Just as in life, baseball possesses no guarantees. But he prevailed, turning the team around from a 19-37 record the year before, to a second-place finish in the WAC which included a 32-24 mark and a berth in the WAC Tournament final. It was a good year; we had our man.
Despite the interim tag, coach Beard also recruited fairly well; he had to, considering he lost several key players to graduation. He needs to essentially rebuild his infield, prepare some returners for a larger role and continue to improve his pitching staff, especially after the graduation of WAC Pitcher of the Year Max Carter. He’ll be on the lookout for the next ace, never an easy task. But with a background as a pitching coach, I’m sure he has a plan.
I like his baseball mind. It seems like he and I are on the same page a lot. I don’t usually coach from the booth when I am calling a game on the air, but it’s fun to guess what a coach might do in a certain situation and nine times out of 10 when I make a guess, coach Beard follows through with that exact move. It’s often poetry in motion.
It was well-deserved on Tuesday when the interim tag was removed in front of a packed crowd of media, student-athletes and even many of their parents. You could see who already believed in their skipper. Even families of players who had recently graduated came back to offer their support, a big statement indeed.
One of coach Beard’s most-famous quotes, one of the key lessons he instilled in his players in his first year on the job was “how you do anything is how you do everything.” It stuck with his team.
His players bought into that concept last season and turned a really tough situation into one of the best comeback stories in college baseball. For that, he earned his spot as the third head coach in program history. He’ll have the honor of being the skipper for the 10th anniversary of Roadrunners baseball when the team takes the field in 2018.
That cast has changed a lot in 10 years, but the endless drama as Garagiola pointed out will continue. I think we have the right director to make sure that the show goes on in a fashion that honors everyone who has taken part in our baseball drama, and the fans who pay to watch it.
Corey Costelloe, a Tehachapi High graduate, is assistant athletics director for communications for CSUB.